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Archive for the ‘cakes’ Category

Bags of blood oranges were on sale, pulling my cart with tractor bean like force into the produce section. Without much thought, as if it was destined to be, they went into the basket. No real plan, no ideas; they were a good deal and I needed something bright and sunny in my life. My car was just starting to reappear from the slowly melting ice, I’d actually gone outside without my winter boots and yes, I do believe that was a glimpse of the sun. Into the cart went the oranges. 

I ate a few. I threw one in a salad. I contemplated marmalade then remembered I had jars from last year’s batch sitting on the shelf. So that left five more. What to do, what to do. They are truly beautiful; the flesh varying from deep ruby red to nearly purple to red-orange speckles and the fruit is a nice combination of tart and sweet. Cake. An upside down cake that would show them off to perfection. Yes, that’s what I’d do.

I dug out my old restaurant notebooks, looking for an almond cake we often used. It would be perfect and even better, it would finish off that bag of almond flour that’s been kicking about. We used crème frâiche but that can be pricey and difficult to find so I used greek yogurt (sour cream would work well too.) At the restaurant, we often topped them with caramelized fruit, pineapple or plum and sometimes, a dab of chunky marmalade. Exactly what I had in mind. I was in a marmalade kind of mood.

I had my doubts that the orange slices would fully cook under a thick layer of cake batter and I wanted them a little more marmalade-y so I opted for a pre-cook. Borrowing a technique I used for a long ago candied lemon Christmas cookie, I thinly sliced the oranges and cooked them gently in a thick simple syrup, long enough to soften the rinds but short enough to keep the flesh intact. Normally I would cook an upside down cake in a cast iron skillet or regular cake pan but I was skeptical that this thing would release cleanly so I used a springform and lined the bottom with parchment paper. A layer of gorgeous, slightly candied orange slices topped with an almond cake batter, it was a thing to behold. It also and took forever to bake – oven an hour.

What emerged was stunning. A lightly golden cake topped with a gorgeous mosaic of jeweled orange slices. I was a bit speechless. The cake is nice and moist, the outer edges wonderfully crunchy and the orange slices, oh my those orange slices. The prettiest layer of orange marmalade I’ve ever had. I loved this cake, a perfect mix of sweet and bitter as a good marmalade always is. It held well for days, froze beautifully and brightened my gloomy days. Exactly what I needed. 

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SUNSHINE DAY. What a bright bit of happiness. Unmolding this cake was one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in a long while. And it’s not just a pretty face, it’s downright delicious. Tender, moist, full of flavor and it makes me smile – a real winner. I think it would be a wonderful addition to your Easter table. Beautiful! Bake up a little happiness while citrus is at its peak. Just do it.

Twelve years ago: Khachapuri (cheesy Georgian bread) 

Eleven years ago: my most popular post of all time – Pretzel Rolls  

Ten years ago: Guinness Stout Floats

Nine years ago: Corned Beef & Potato CakesLiege Sugar Waffles

Eight years ago: Reuben KnishesMasala ChaiBanana Bread Bread Pudding

Seven years ago: Guinness Crème Anglais

Six years ago: Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Five years ago: Guinness Pretzel ToffeeSausage Hand Pies

Four years ago: Upside-Down Guinness Snakebite CakeMarcella’s Butter Tomato Sauce Three years ago: Coconut Chess Pie

Two years ago: Old School Antipasto Salad

last year: Dirty Chai Cookies

BLOOD ORANGE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

Regarding the oranges, you want enough thin slices to cover the bottom of the pan with a slight overlap. If the oranges are large, you can probably make due with two, if small, probably closer to four. When in doubt, slice an additional orange. Having extra candied orange slices around is never a bad thing. They are really great in an Old Fashioned along with any extra syrup.

for the oranges:

2-4 blood oranges, thinly sliced and seeded

¾ cup water

1 ½ cups sugar

for the cake:

16 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (1 cup/2 sticks)

1 cup sugar (215g)

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

2 cups almond flour (200g)

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (260g)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

  1. Line the bottom of 10” springform pan with a round of parchment paper, spray the bottom and sides lightly with cooking spray. Set aside until needed.
  2. For the oranges: Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan, stirring on medium-high heat until fully dissolved. 
  3. Gently add the orange slices and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for 15 minutes until the peels become soft and semi translucent. There should be a slow ring of bubbles around the edge of the pot. Give a gentle stir/push occasionally to make sure all slices are cooking evenly.
  5. Line a sheet pan with parchment, give it a quick spritz of cooking spray and set aside until needed.
  6. With tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully remove the orange slices, letting the excess syrup drip into the pot, and lay out on the prepared sheet pan. Cool until they are easy to handle, just a few minutes.
  7. Continue to boil the syrup to slightly thicken, about 4 minutes more. It should be thick enough to coat a spoon
  8. Cut a few of the less attractive orange slices in half and use those to line the outer edge of the pan, cut side out. 
  9. Continue toward the center using whole slices, overlapping slightly. 
  10. Dab the orange slices with the syrup, just enough to make everything nice and shiny.
  11. Reserve any excess syrup to brush the baked cake.
  12. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  13. For the cake: in a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside until needed. 
  14. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium high until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  15. On low, add eggs one at a time, mixing each one until fully combined.
  16. Add the almond and vanilla extracts, mixing until just incorporated.
  17. Still on low, mix in the dry mixture until just combined then add the yogurt and mix until fully incorporated (do not overmix). 
  18. Carefully add spoonfuls of the batter to the orange lined pan, gently spreading the batter with an offset spatula so as not to dislodge the oranges and even out the batter. 
  19. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in lower third of the oven until golden brown, springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean with moist crumbs.
  20. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. The cake is sturdier the longer it cools but you want the oranges to be a little warm to release cleanly. Caramelized sugar is a real pain in the butt once it cools and hardens. Ten minutes seems to be the sweet spot. 
  21. Release the pan sides then place a serving plate on top of the cake and carefully flip right-side up.
  22. Carefully remove the parchment paper and nudge any dislodged oranges gently back into place if needed.
  23. Gently reheat the reserved orange syrup and brush the top and sides of the cake with the reserved glaze. 
  24. The cake cuts best if left to cool completely but is, admittedly, rather irresistible when warm. Proceed at your own risk. The orange slices make it a bit challenging to slice so use a sharp knife and persevere.
  25. This cake can be made a day or two ahead and kept tightly covered at room temperature. Any leftovers freeze beautifully too. 

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Sticky toffee pudding has always intrigued me. It’s warm, nice and moist and bathed in a buttery caramel sauce that reels me in every time. Warm caramel sauce is my thing. What has always surprised me is this cake has dates in it. It’s a date cake with caramel poured over, which in theory, always sounds a bit odd to this Yank. Dates have really come on strong in the last few years but sticky toffee pudding has been a thing in Great Britain for forever, best as I can tell. For good reason too … it’s delicious.

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Every year, I invite friends over to celebrate something I call “Polish Easter”. It’s a made up holiday of mine, planned loosely around the Easter holiday when schedules allow and is primarily a reason to eat the Polish foods of my childhood. It also happens to be my favorite Sunday Lunch of the year. I put on some polka tunes, pile the table high with old and new favorites – sausage and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, special breads, various vegetable dishes, the traditional butter lamb and of course the reason we’re all here: pierogies. This year it was too late to purchase a butter lamb so I made one for the first time, calling upon years of watching my father carve one out of stick of butter and with the help of several YouTube videos. It was spectacular. My Polish Easter was also later this year than usual due to busy schedules and happened to fall on May 5th so I called the event “Pierogi de Mayo”. Because of course I did.

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A few weeks ago, my dear friend Kate Hill (of the Kitchen at Camont) posted a cake recipe. It was a simple French version of pound cake, quatre-quarts, and she served it with the most magnificent looking strawberries. In fact, she made it specifically to go with those strawberries. The recipe is easy to remember: equal parts eggs, sugar, melted butter and flour. Weigh the eggs first, in the shell, and this determines the quantities of the other ingredients. It looked phenomenal though to be fair, everything Kate makes is pretty phenomenal.

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Hey! So I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, but nothing really blog worthy. More so, just some old favorites, many that I’ve already posted. With Easter coming up, there are some good things in the archives for your holiday brunches and dinners so let’s recap today.

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How wonderful is a good bundt cake? There’s something so homey and comforting about a moist wedge, usually with some kind of fantastic sugary glaze, that makes me so stinkin’ happy. The last month has been a bit crazy – travel, wicked jetlag, insane Olympic viewing marathons – that I badly needed something homey and comforting. My cooking mojo was running low and dinner has often consisted of a bowl of popcorn or a plate of raw vegetables and whatever I could round up to act as a dip. For the last several posts, I’ve made foods from recently maligned countries, and while very good, they weren’t cake. I needed cake. When I saw my friend Cathy Barrow’s recipe in The Washington Times for a Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake, I perked up. I had meyer lemons. I had butter and eggs and whatnot. Game on.

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I haven’t started this year off on the right food, from a health nor a cooking perspective. I pushed into 2018 with a cold. That horrible, no good, terrible flu that’s making the rounds. I was down for the count for days and have been “in recovery” for two weeks. I feel better – I’m not downing a pack of Dayquil every few days anymore – but I certainly don’t feel great. I haven’t been hungry. I haven’t been cooking anything beyond buttered noodles and frozen pot pies. My kitchen mojo is running on empty.

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I’m still trying to work my way through a boatload of apples I picked a few weeks ago. Applesauce, cakes, fritters. A pie once or twice. These things are making a dent but I have to keep going. I’m not sure how many times I can google “recipes that use a lot of apples” and expect different results but recently, I had a new idea based on a mediocre slice of pie: apple bars. Something buttery, crumbly and full of apple flavor. Something creamy would be wonderful too. I was thinking cream cheese, much like my German Apple Cheese Torte but in a bar form. That used hard to find quark cheese but honestly, anything in that creamy, dairy family would be good – crème fraiche, sour cream, mascarpone, ricotta. Hmmmmmm.

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I’m drowning in apples right now. This happens every October/November and it’s not a bad problem to have. My farmer friend Pete had an orchard party and I did some picking – Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Valspar, McIntosh and who knows what else. I just wandered among the trees, putting whatever interested me into my bag so I’m not altogether sure what’s what anyway. My picking adventure resulted in soaking wet boots, two giant bowls that don’t fit in my refrigerator and a need to make some recipes packed with apples. A few days after the party, I made some apple fritters. Two apples down.

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After a month of chocolate recipes followed by a bunch of beer recipes and a few Italian dishes for good measure, I was in the mood for something light, bright and tangy. Something citrus, puckery citrus. Something that screamed “Spring!!” at the top of its lungs. A tender, buttery bundt cake sounded pretty good too. Let’s combine the two, shall we?

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